Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is the first step to getting federal aid for college or career school.  Each year more than $120 billion in grants, work-study funds, and loans are disbursed for students, but you must fill out the FAFSA to see if you qualify for any of that money.  


    The 2023-2024 FAFSA form became available online at FAFSA.gov on October 1, 2019.  Many schools distribute funds to students on a first-come first served basis, so it's important to complete the FAFSA as early as possible after October 1st so you don't miss out on anything.   

    FAFSA Step-by-Step Guide walks students and families through each question of the FAFSA, including screenshots and explanations and a FAQ page for students with special circumstances. https://www.standoutcollegeprep.com/fafsa-questions/

    Need based versus non-need based aid?

    Need based aid is financial aid that you can receive if you have financial need and meet other eligibility criteria.  You can't receive more need-based aid than the amount of your financial need. 

    Some types of need-based aid include:

    Federal Pell Grant

    Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

    Direct Subsidized Loan

    Federal Perkins Loan

    Federal Work Study

    Non-need based aid is financial aid that is not based on your Estimated Family Contribution.  What matters is your cost of attendance and how much other assistance you've been awarded so far.  For instance, if your cost of attendance is $16,000 and you've been awarded a total of $4,000 in need-based aid and private scholarships, you can get up to $12,000 in non-need based aid.  

    Some types of non-need based aid include:

    Direct Unsubsidized Loan

    Federal PLUS Loan

    What about merit based aid?

    Some scholarships for college are merit-based.  Students earn them by meeting or exceeding certain standards set by the scholarship-giver.  Merit scholarships might be awarded based on academic achievement or on a combination of academics and a special talent, trait, or interest.  Other scholarships are based on financial need.  

    Many colleges and universities award merit based aid in conjunction with the admissions application and sometimes essays are required.  It is important for students to check with the schools they are interested in attending to understand what merit based aid is available and how to go about applying for it.  Many colleges and universities require students to apply by early admission deadlines to be eligible to compete for merit based aid, so it's important to start the application process early in the senior year and be very aware of deadlines.

    Please refer to our Scholarships page for merit based scholarships.